Combating the power gobbler

The guessing game around Australia’s future climate change framework has begun but regardless of whether there will be a carbon price or not, electricity costs are still set to surge.

THE guessing game around Australia’s future climate change framework has begun but regardless of whether there will be a carbon price or not, electricity costs are still set to surge.

Pricing website GoSwitch pre dicts electricity prices will dou ble over the next five years — and that is without a carbon tax.

In addition, the Energy Users Association of Australia (EUAA) reported that as of 1 July 2010, regulated electricity charges would increase by an average of 10% in New South Wales, 13.3% in Queensland and 8.6% in South Australia.

WEG Australia national prod uct manager — automation, Sean Richardson, says instead of being concerned about possible govern ment legislation, manufacturing companies should look at the situation with a more pragmatic approach.

“I think the whole issue with CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) and it being rejected and the question about what we need to do post-CPRS is a big question and in many respects it’s a philosophical one,” Richardson told Manufacturers’ Monthly.

“So if we can limit or reduce the energy consumed per machine, for example, we can then either afford to run more machines or we can save money in energy. Both those options are positive and all of them are based on a simple logic: the abil ity to save money or to expand.

“I think that’s why energy effi ciency these days is so impor tant. It’s less of a regulated thing and more of a common sense approach.”

As one of the biggest energy users in industrial plants, electric motors consume more than 60% of energy.

Richardson claims they are also responsible for potential losses of up to 10 to 20% of con verted electricity and, as such, maximising motor efficiency could result in cost savings.

Motor appraisal

According to Baldor Australia managing director, Daniel Vera, one of the first things a business should do when looking to reduce the energy consumption of electric motors is to conduct an audit which documents impor tant component details.

This will provide companies with information including a kW rating, and serial numbers to determine a date code from man ufacture which may provide his tory of the motor.

“Some businesses might have hundreds of motors in their plant and just by habit, whenever they have motor failures, they pull them out, get them rewound and put back in. These motors might be 5, 10, or 20 years old so the efficiency levels would be much lower than that used or mandat ed today,” Vera said.

He says companies should be replacing standard motors with high efficiency models, if they are less than 15 to 22kW and more than 10 years old. Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for electric motors were introduced in 2001, so if motors were manufactured prior to that year, it is likely they would be less efficient.

Businesses should also keep an updated list of new motors com ing in and old motors going out of the plant.

Replacing old technology

Richardson says the introduction of MEPS regulations in Australia has forced manufacturers and end-users to invest in electrical motors with a normative efficien cy level. The problem remains however, that in order to signifi cantly reduce energy consump tion manufacturers need to look at the complete drive system and not just the individual parts that make up the system.

“In some cases it [MEPS] worked with respect to highlight ing the need for more efficient motors but in other cases it did n’t because it didn’t mandate if you’re going to use a high effi ciency motor you must load it to a certain percent or you must use high efficiency mechanical products in conjunction with it,” he said.

“So you might have a highly efficient motor running with a really inefficient gearbox and that becomes a bit of a paradox. It’s not worth it.”

According to Richardson, com panies should consider the replacement of old, less efficient mechanical elements with more modern technology.

“There is a lot of old mechani cal technology out there which has been superseded by better methods and users have really got to consider that the motor is driving something and that something is going to be mechan ical,” he said.

“Electrical and mechanical efficiency can be increased if users get an overall system approach development mindset.”